In 2011, RELUFA commemorated ten years of organizing for structural change and alternative economic initiatives in Cameroon. It was a moment to look back and celebrate the milestones in the network’s diverse programs and campaigns. But throughout that decade, there also has been an organizational evolution that, ten years later, required the adoption of a new model for RELUFA’s collaborative strategies and campaigns.
Rooted in a vision for collaborative global hunger action, RELUFA embraced in 2001 an associative network model with a registered membership for common action. To organize reflection, study, planning and implementation of strategies member organizations would come together in different task forces around systemic problems of hunger and poverty, and their collaborative efforts would be moved along by a coordinator. Between 2003 and 2008, this resulted in four task forces that eventually kicked off the mix of globalization related strategies and local economic alternatives with which RELUFA has profiled itself.
Over time, however, it became clear that for lack of commonality not all member organizations maintained their participation in a given task force or kept an interest in network activities in general, yet they still had their seat at General Assemblies. Furthermore, once established, the strategies required much more personal resources and time than could be provided by the active task forces members, who each first had to ensure the continuation of their own organization’s activities. The Task Forces had served their purpose to identify themes and strategies, but proved not the mode to ensure longevity for campaign building.
In the ten-year timespan, RELUFA's active membership decreased, while at the central level staff and interns were employed to ensure the day-to-day operations of the organization. In the process, the staff expanded collaborative relationships with Civil Society Organizations, Coalitions and resource persons beyond the actual membership, and through the alternative economic initiatives RELUFA had established relationships with grassroots communities. Still, core decision-making power was held by a dozen of mostly inactive members.
In this process, RELUFA's identity started to become somewhat confused. It was tempting for the central staff to steer the organization towards an NGO-mode resorting to the typical individualized approach to avoid the cumbersome processes and relations common to collaborative settings. Yet, it is commonly recognized that the wealth of pooled insights and experiences is irreplaceable, and that it is by mobilizing collectively that one becomes a force to be reckoned with in society. Both constitute RELUFA’s very reason of being and gives it a unique place in Civil Society.
All things considered, a new collaborative organizational model was designed that represents a hybrid form between a Network Association and a Non-Governmental Organization, with a change in legal status from Association to NGO. Rather than keeping registered member-based task forces as integral part of decision-making and executing structures, the 2011 General Assembly decided to dissolve its membership to make place for less formalized thematic campaign platforms of alliances outside the administrative structures, and to reconstitute in a different mode a new General Assembly after the transition would be completed, two years later.
To shape these platforms, RELUFA staff and leadership identify anew fellow civil society groups and individuals around themes and strategies already developed from RELUFA's earlier work through task forces and staff, and collaboratively take them to the next stage towards campaign building. Cooperation within the thematic campaign platforms is not on the basis of some formal membership but comes forth from natural synergy with others in Civil Society with similar concerns, approaches and philosophies. This would provide a greater latitude for RELUFA to organize with like-minded platform partners its strategies and campaigns, employ their competence of in-the-field experts, and provide the potential for mobilization of their constituencies while leaving sufficient latitude to assess their level of involvement. From the platforms, representatives would be selected to make up the decision-making body in General Assembly meetings.
RELUFA’s program staff would ensure the day-to-day progress on campaign development and operations. Building on its connections and experiences, RELUFA would in this mode work with two main campaign-oriented platforms: “Extractive Industries” and “Food, Land and Trade”.
This shift is still much in its conceptual stage as RELUFA's Coordination and its Board of Directors are currently assessing its viability amidst a number of other transitions and changes the organization has been facing.